Transforming government through 'As-a-Service' model

When it comes to ICT provisioning, the New Zealand government is a leader in adopting the As-a-Service (aaS) model. The transition to As-a-Service began nearly 20 years ago and today a host of ICT products and services are available, shared building blocks which government agencies can adopt to improve service delivery. Some of these include Infrastructure-as-a-Service, Telecommunications-as-a-Service, enterprise content management services, IT security services, a secure login service, website development and hosting platforms, shared workspaces and cloud-based productivity tools.

eGov Innovation speaks with Ron Stuart, Manager Government ICT Supply Strategy at the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA), to discuss New Zealand’s transformation of government ICT through aaS.

Tell us about the As-a-Service (aaS) model provided by DIA. How does it work and how is it transforming ICT in the New Zealand government?

The New Zealand Government's move to As-a-Service began nearly 20 years ago and has been accelerating since 2012 when Infrastructure-as-a-Service arrangements were established with three onshore providers of storage and utility compute capability. Since then, a number of additional aaS capabilities have been established to move supply capabilities to be outcome focussed rather than on-premise legacy environments. This has transformed government by making common many of the underpinning capabilities consumed by government agencies.

In the past, ICT provisioning was focussed on design-build-operate legacy environments for each individual agency. There was limited collaboration between agencies and no supply leverage. With the aaS model, New Zealand government agencies are able to:

-Access a pool of shared ICT resource capabilities that have been negotiated on a pan government basis
-Buy on demand on a subscription basis
-Pay only for what they need, when they need it
-Procure capability without the burden of ownership and maintenance 

What benefits and cost savings has the aaS model brought about?

Significant value and benefit has been achieved in terms of establishing future environments and shifting legacy systems into As-a-Service. But this shift has not been cost free or able to fully realise cashable savings. The New Zealand Government goal has been to sustainably reduce the cost of ICT by $100m per year by 2017 and this has been largely achieved – but as a reduction in the increasing cost of ICT which is significantly increasing overall as a result of the impact of technology on all parts of government delivery.

New Zealand government agencies are able to achieve the following benefits:
- Cost savings through economies of scale
- Removes the need for each agency to tender services and run costly procurement processes
- Agencies can focus on creating better services rather than having to worry about owning, operating and maintaining IT
- Allow greater integration and collaboration between agencies

What are some challenges encountered in the process of ICT transformation and how do you overcome them?

ICT transformation is about technology, people and process but is mainly about people. The movement towards outcome focus rather than technology (design, build, operate) has been challenging from many perspectives – investment cycles, opex/capex, operating models, procurement, capability and fear of change. The role of technologists is changing rapidly with the emerging role being much more focussed on supporting business to achieve citizen outcomes rather than on the technology itself.

What strategies and best practices would you recommend for governments looking to transition to aaS?

Transition takes time and it requires engagement with all parts of government to understand the role that technology and service delivery plays in delivering outcomes to citizens. It requires vision and collaboration. The culture of the environment needs significant consideration. 

What we have learned about our government’s transition to aaS is that our society, our environment and culture is both the primary enabler of change and an impediment to change. An analysis of New Zealand’s environment identifies that we are a small Pacific Island nation and that we are a consumer of both global capability and of local innovation. This means that we needed to think outside of our geophysical boundaries to understand both jurisdiction and security risks, and after much debate we have adjusted our policy settings appropriately. The acceptance that security can be enhanced in certain areas via off-shore hosting and service delivery requires a change in consumption thinking and a programme has been established to enable this, components of which are:

-Requiring agencies to have a public cloud services plan

-Change perceptions of the risk profile for public cloud

-Enable agencies to transition their ICT operating models

-Lift the capability of cloud practitioners

-Streamline security certification for public cloud services

-Modernise commercial frameworks (including development of a public cloud ICT marketplace)

We have also positioned New Zealand very strongly with global suppliers as a place where the government is prepared to innovate in the delivery of cloud services. This has created significant value for both government and the suppliers.

What strategies and best practices would you recommend for governments looking to drive cloud adoption?

Strategies and best practices are contextual to the environment and society in which you exist. New Zealand, as a small sparsely populated country, realised that major investment in data centres and capability within New Zealand by global suppliers was highly unlikely. This realisation meant that we created an offshore hosting strategy to support the cloud-first strategy. This also meant that we offered global suppliers the opportunity to innovate and test opportunities within the New Zealand environment – this has led to New Zealand being regarded as a globally leading and innovative environment.

What are some of DIA's future plans moving forward?

We are testing and preparing to implement an ICT marketplace where New Zealand Government agencies will be able to procure commodity/subscription based public cloud products. We are also investigating the creation of an integrator/resource marketplace where qualified and contracted capability can be sourced.